Awkward But Determined: Darcy’s Story

 

At my homeschool graduation ceremony, I received around a thousand dollars in gifts from friends and family. I decided right then and there that I would spend it on the first month of classes at the community college in the city. I didn’t have a plan, I only knew I had to do something, had to get out of our house, had to fill my time while my boyfriend and I tried to talk my parents into letting us court and marry. (You can read that story here.) I had an idea that I would take all music classes so I could be better educated to teach my piano students. I didn’t know anything about how to fulfill certain credits, or what credits were, how to get a degree, how to plan your college years.

I was completely ignorant about how it worked. But that didn’t stop me. I’ve always been stubborn like that. 

I walked onto campus the first day of school and sat down with an advisor. He was a little baffled about what my plan was and why I’d waited until the first day, but said it wasn’t too late. I handed him my GED and SAT scores (I had taken the COMPASS test just for kicks a few months before). He determined I wanted to be a music major (I didn’t know what that meant but I figured he knew what he was talking about), and signed me up for Theory 101 and several other classes, including some general education classes and an art class that fit an elective credit. I was euphoric. I was going to college!

The next day, I drove the 1 hour drive from our home in the mountains to the college campus in town. I was nervous as hell. A real classroom?! But I put on my confidence face and walked into my first class, an art class. I was amazed at the diversity of people there, and a little scared of them, but determined to be friendly and make friends. I still remember that I was wearing a very long, full blue skirt with a large, collared button-up blouse that was 3 sizes too big. With my long hair in braids, bangs curled to perfection, I was the perfect model of a stereotypical homeschooled girl. And everyone knew it but me.

The teacher was not excited to have a new student that started a day late, and had no supplies. I didn’t know I needed supplies. She gave me a list and I was appalled to find out how much they would cost. But I had a couple hundred left over from paying tuition so I knew I’d be OK. Until I discovered with each class that I’d need textbooks and that textbooks are outrageously expensive. I will never forget standing in the campus bookstore, totally lost, and handing my list to a helpful volunteer who found everything for me. Between the books and my art supplies, my leftover cash was wiped out. I knew my parents could never afford to pay for me, I didn’t know what financial aid was, and I would never be allowed to get a real job to pay for myself. But I was determined to have one great semester and not think too far ahead, just figure it out as I went.

There are so many stories I could tell about those two years.

I could fill pages with memories, some funny, some cringe-worthy, all that point to a spirited young woman who had determination and resilience, but who was thoroughly unprepared to be an adult.

Who didn’t even know what she didn’t know. Who gradually went from a skirted conservative homeschooler full of trepidation and fear of the world, to a person in her own right.

I could tell about how when my art teacher asked what our favorite artists were, everyone said various contemporary artists whom I had never heard of. I blurted out “Thomas Kinkaid”, much to the amusement of several students and the outright disdain of the teacher. Apparently Kinkaid was not considered a real artist in real art circles.

Or the time I finally found out what “gay” and “homosexual” meant after someone told me one of my friends at school was gay and I had to look that up in the dictionary. At 19 years old. I was fascinated and figured he was a cool person so it didn’t matter. He didn’t seem like more of an evil sinner than any other evil sinner. He was an educational friend to have for a girl who had never heard the word “penis” before and had no sex-education. He treated me with friendliness and thought my ignorance was hilarious and endearing.

Then there was the time I explained to one of my instructors that I couldn’t get the scholarship he was offering because I didn’t have a social security number. His reaction told me that this was so far from normal and it was the first time ever that I questioned the weirdness of not having identity. I credit him with helping me go through the grueling process to finally get one.

I cringe at all the times I was asked out on a date but didn’t really know what was happening.

Then there was that logic class that pretty much was the beginning of the end for many of my Fundy homeschool beliefs. Now I know why they say college and education corrupt good Christian kids. Because the majority of everything I learned from the likes of Bill Gothard and Joshua Harris and Ken Ham and our Abeka history books didn’t stand a chance against critical thinking and logic.

Explaining why I had a secret boyfriend but didn’t go on dates was another awkward memory I’d rather forget. Also explaining why he was secret and why I was so worried about my parents when I was an adult, not a child.

I cringe thinking about the clothes I wore that were ill-fitting and “modest” and frumpy. When friends took me shopping and I tried on real clothes that fit me right, I realized I was attractive and an adult and maybe I didn’t have to dress like my parents wanted me to all the time. I bought shorter, more fitted skirts and tall boots and tights and tops that were cute and fit me well. I even bought my first pair of jeans and sometimes changed into them in the car before going in to school because I didn’t want to deal with my parents freaking out over my clothing. I wanted so badly to have some freedom and independence but was still so afraid of what my parents would say, even to the point that I was worried someone who knew them would see me and tell them I was dressing immodestly at school. Eventually I got over that, with much fighting and “rebelling” and standing up for myself. You don’t get over having “obey your parents” drilled into you from birth overnight.

I ended up getting a job as a live-in nanny for the remainder of the two years I was in community college. I moved out of my parent’s home under much protest from them, but determined to find my own way and finish school. Caring for kids was something I knew and did well, and we were happy, my charges, their mom, and I. I paid my way through the next two years of school by nannying. I started buying my own clothing and got a stylish haircut at a salon, and realized I needed car insurance. My employer gave me a cell phone and I was able to talk to my boyfriend whenever I wanted to, which was heavenly.

In those two years, I grew up a little bit. I grew a backbone. I discovered the world was so much bigger and better than I’d ever imagined. 

As my relationship with my parents got worse, I became more confident in who I was and what I wanted in life. It would be another decade before I really broke free from all the crap that was my past, but those two years were a good start.

I look back, and I cringe. About everything. I was so unprepared for the world, for being an adult. I had to figure it all out by myself and it was overwhelming. I understand now the funny looks I would get from my instructors and friends. I knew nothing about financial management, banks, insurance, medical services, dating, sex, rent, bills, taxes or anything else that suddenly I was responsible for. I made a lot of mistakes and didn’t know it til years later. My parents were neither supportive nor a hindrance. I think they thought this was just something I got in my head to do and they didn’t really care. They gave me gas money to get to school until I moved out. They wouldn’t sign the FAFSA so I couldn’t get financial aid once I figured out what that was. They didn’t like me “out from under the umbrella” of their authority where they couldn’t see what I was doing and who I was with. I never really talked about my life in the city with them. I hid much of my self and my new, blossoming thoughts and changing beliefs We fought a lot when I went home on weekends. Our relationship continued to get worse until I got married the end of my 2nd year in school.

They had no idea how to prepare a child to be a functioning adult outside their homeschool bubble, and no idea how to have a relationship with an adult child.

I had no idea that I could be an adult, or what that meant, that I had a right to make my own decisions and plan my own life. It was a gradual dawning and a painful process.

Due to a number of reasons, not the least of which was my ignorance on how degrees worked, I ended those 2 years with 70 credits and no degree. I got married, started having babies, and my husband and I went through a lot in the first 10 years of our marriage. I am now 31 years old, and at 29 with four small children, I made the decision to go back to school. I’ve been taking classes online to finish my BA and have plans to go on to grad school when my youngest starts Kindergarten. I’m now a senior at a state university. I know the ropes this time. I’m doing well. Still pulling great grades and enjoying the learning experience.  I’m planning a career and that makes me happy and gives me hope for the future. I wish I had known more and finished my Bachelor’s before having children, before life got more complicated, but here I am. Hind-sight can’t help me now. There is only the future and it’s a bright one.

My kids like to say fondly that I’m not a real grown-up because I’m still in school. They have no idea the irony of that. Someday, maybe I’ll tell them.

8 comments

  • Your story highlights something that absolutely boggles my mind every time I encounter it–and it’s so widespread. Are these super-sheltering parents assuming that they are the last generation of adults on Earth? How did they learn about “financial management, banks, insurance, medical services, dating, sex, rent, [and] bills?” Or do they not remember that this kind of knowledge doesn’t fall like the dew? Or are they assuming that they will continue to take care of all of it for their children until the day they die?

    Or is it just the girls who get messed around with like this? Are boys raised to be just as ignorant in the typical super-sheltering family? Good grief, what happens when two ignorant children set up house together and try to figure out how to keep the lights on?

    • Well, I could tell you what happens from experience. Eventually we figured it out. It boggles my mind too. I look back and I think, what the heck, Mom and Dad?! How can you forget something as important as teaching your child how to be a functioning adult? But then, all the books, all the Gothard seminars, all the materials and friends we hung out with stressed obedience and hierarchy and authority and how girls shouldn’t move out before marriage. It seems to follow naturally then that we didn’t need to learn those things. Or maybe they just forgot that they learned those things school and from their parents. Sometimes I think that my parents didn’t think things through very well, to their logical conclusions. They accepted a worldview and tried to be part of a culture that taught all these things, without thinking what the results would be, other than “we want to raise godly kids”. And that is not good enough.

    • Yes, many believe we ARE the last generation, that the Rapture will occur in the next few years, etc.
      Concerning shelteredness, it depends on the family and circle. In mine, we were really sheltered; fortunately, my mom has SOME common sense, so she’s in favor of my knowing these things.

    • A lot of people, religious or not, take for granted some of the stuff they know. When something is viewed as common sense, it can be easy to forget that it’s something you had to learn, and it’s easy to forget that such things often had to be reinforced. I think a lot of parents like this assume that once their kid reaches the appropriate age, they’ll only have to be told something once and they’ll get it. Parents assume that because they can do it without trouble, their kids automatically will be able to, forgetting that some things take practice or getting used to. And sometimes they assume that their kids are going to pick up the information someplace else, so they don’t need to teach them.

      Plus, a lot of parents forget that they aren’t just raising kids, they’re raising future adults. People forget that growing up is a process, not something that happens overnight.

      • Where would sheltered homeschooled kids “pick up the information someplace else” though? That’s what I really don’t understand. We didn’t have a “someplace else”. As a parent myself, I can’t help but think all the reasons given for this failure are not good enough. I am purposefully raising my kids to be successful, independent, functioning adults. It IS a purposeful thing and it’s my job. To do otherwise is irresponsible parenting and there really isn’t a good excuse for that. And my kids aren’t homeschooled so they will get exposed and taught by other people. That doesn’t mean I get to sit back not do my job though.

    • I was always told that studying and memorizing the bible was more important than math, science, history, etc. Another BIG reason is control… If a kid knows nothing they’re less likely to stray away from their parent’s authority/tyranny.

  • “Now I know why they say college and education corrupt good Christian kids. Because the majority of everything I learned from the likes of Bill Gothard and Joshua Harris and Ken Ham and our Abeka history books didn’t stand a chance against critical thinking and logic.”

    Yes, the only way dogmatism can prevail in a open society is through building artificial barriers impenetrable to other viewpoints. That’s why we have books written from a ‘Christian’ perspective on everything from growing kids to carrots. Under the mantle of thought ending cliches like ‘Lordship’ and ‘Worldview’, fundamentalist authors can poison the well, misrepresent the opposition, and co-opt the language with which you think.

    the lemur

  • Your post reminded me of when I was a similarly naive teenager in the 1960s. Aged 18, a friend got a weekend job in a Pharmacy and came to school embarrassingly describing what condoms were. We had no idea….I kind of imagined they looked something like my mother’s sewing thimble and wondered how they stayed in place. Glue? I wondered…..!!

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